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Brooks Distance Review

An affordable and comfortable short sleeve running shirt.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $34 List | $19.99 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Dries quickly, versatile, affordable, soft material, odor resistant
Cons:  Heavy when wet
Manufacturer:   Brooks
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 24, 2019
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 11
  • Comfort - 35% 9
  • Breathability - 20% 5
  • Drying Speed - 15% 4
  • Versatility - 15% 8
  • Features - 15% 5

Our Verdict

Brooks took a long hard look at the criticisms of reviewers and put them to good use in the most recent update of the Brooks Distance running shirt. The previously abrasive seams were smoothed out, and the fit relaxed a bit. The 85% polyester and 15% spandex fabric is exceptionally soft and had us double-checking the tag to see if there was Egyptian cotton mixed in. While this was previously one of the lower-scoring shirts in our review, the slight modifications have made it a strong performer and a shirt we wouldn't hesitate to throw on for our morning jog.

In the end, we decided to award the Top Pick for Comfort to the Distance, as the fabric is unrivaled in its softness, and large gusseted underarm and shoulder panels keep seams from rubbing. While this shirt is ultra comfortable, mid-summer heat isn't ideal, as it is heavier and less breathable than some. Almost any application requiring a quick-drying technical layer would suit the Distance, including hiking, climbing, hunting, and even casual cycling. While there are shirts out there that will dry quicker and offer better breathability, the soft fabric is unparalleled and made almost any outing a bit more comfortable.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Brooks Distance
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $19.99 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$49.00 at Backcountry
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$70 List$44.99 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Dries quickly, versatile, affordable, soft material, odor resistantHighly breathable, lightweight, quick dryingLots of features, very versatile, dries fast, awesome ventingComfortable flat-locked merrow stitching, durable Phasic FL polyester fabric, lots of reflectors, UPF protectionSuper comfortable fabric and stitching, sleek stretch fit
Cons Heavy when wetTaped seams on shoulders less durable than sewn seamsFabric feels rough and artificial against skin, chest pocket is smallDoesn’t allow direct air flow as easily as mesh shirts, holds lots of moistureDries very slowly, doesn’t have chest pocket
Bottom Line An affordable and comfortable short sleeve running shirt.Exceedingly comfortable and fast drying are the two top attributes for the best running shirt you can buy.The best running shirt for winter or on cold days in the fall and spring.A great running shirt, well-suited for any endeavors that require layering.A versatile and comfortable winter running shirt.
Rating Categories Brooks Distance Patagonia Airchaser Ambition 1/4 Zip Arc'teryx Motus Crew Nike Element 1/2 Zip
Comfort (35%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
Breathability (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
Drying Speed (15%)
10
0
4
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
3
Versatility (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
Features (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
Specs Brooks Distance Patagonia Airchaser Ambition 1/4 Zip Arc'teryx Motus Crew Nike Element 1/2 Zip
Material 85% polyester, 15% spandex Recycled polyester 58% Polyester, 42% Recycled Polyester Double Knit With FlashDry Phasic FL (100% polyester) 88% polyester, 12% spandex
Weight (oz.) 5.5 oz. 3.1 oz. 9.4 oz. 4.0 oz. 9.8 oz.
Reflective material? Yes - 1 Yes - 2 Yes - 1 Yes - 5 Yes - 2
UPF? Yes, number not specified N/A 30 25 N/A
Odor Control? Yes - DriLayer Burst fabric Yes - HeiQ Fresh durable odor control No No No
Zip Neck Option? No No Yes No Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Brooks Distance has proven itself to be as comfortable as it is affordable. The previous version, with its ill-designed stitching, scratched us like a jilted house cat. This most recent version is a significant step up. Our favorite attribute, the soft cotton esq feeling fabric, remains, and rounds out the high level of comfort. While the Distance doesn't breathe quite as well as some of the other airy shirts we tested, it does have its place when a touch of extra warmth is wanted when summer starts to transition into fall.

Performance Comparison


The Brooks Distance provided excellent comfort for all kinds of aerobic activity  running included.
The Brooks Distance provided excellent comfort for all kinds of aerobic activity, running included.

Comfort


While comfort can be subjective and a bit elusive to rate, some attributes are universal. We analyze the fit relative to other shirts, fabric feel, how the seams are sewn, and where they are located to make our judgment. Past versions of the Distance were a bit too athletic in the fit, and the seams were sewn with a chunky, abrasive pattern. This newest redesign fixed most of those issues. The size large fits our 5'11" 175 pound gear tester perfectly, riding the fine line between having too much fabric and flapping like a sail or having too little fabric and riding up over our love handles like Will Ferrell's sweater when he's playing the cowbell.

The gussetted panels down the sides placed seams in less irritating areas. This  plus the ultra soft material  made for a heckin comfortable shirt.
The gussetted panels down the sides placed seams in less irritating areas. This, plus the ultra soft material, made for a heckin comfortable shirt.

What sets the Distance apart from the rest of the field is the cotton-esq feel of the fabric. The material is significantly tighter and less breathable but offers a bit more warmth as a trade-off. When we first put this shirt on, we would have sworn there was at least some cotton in the blend due to how soft it feels.


This shirt is so comfortable that we found ourselves wearing it around the house just because it was the most comfortable shirt in our closet. Yes, when wearing a running pack, there was still a bit of abrasion with the seams; however, this shirt is a significant step up from the previous version. While there are some drawbacks to this ultra-soft material such as water retention and a slower drying speed, the high level of comfort is notable.

Gussetted shoulder straps migrated seams from irritating pressure points. This is a great design.
Gussetted shoulder straps migrated seams from irritating pressure points. This is a great design.

The gusseted shoulder panels offset the seams, so they aren't sitting right across your shoulder bones. This is a massive boost for comfort, especially when wearing a running pack or backpack.

Breathability


Most of the shirts we tested had visible perforations in the fabric or at least some mesh panels in key spots to allow for greater breathability and venting. The Distance, however, forewent mesh panels and opted for a tightly woven polyester-spandex fabric blend.


This tightly woven fabric was moderately breathable but nowhere close to shirts like the New Balance Mesh Ice. While the Distance isn't the most breathable in the bunch, the decrease in breathability is a trade-off for a slight boost in warmth, especially for uses other than running. This fabric is excellent for hiking and climbing.

The tightly woven polyester was one of the heavier fabrics we tested. This made it slightly less breathable than most but significantly more comfortable than many mesh shirts.
The tightly woven polyester was one of the heavier fabrics we tested. This made it slightly less breathable than most but significantly more comfortable than many mesh shirts.

Drying Speed


Weighing in at 4.5 ounces, this shirt was roughly in the middle of the spectrum when it came to weight. It outperformed this ranking when accounting for drying time, as it scored up there near the top with the Arc'teryx Motus Crew for best drying time. With more fabric, it should have been capable of holding more water trapped between its fibers, thereby slowing down the drying speed, but this proved not to be the case.


Versatility


Even before the most recent updates with this shirt, it performed well in almost any situation it came across. The increase in comfort, slightly more relaxed fit, and soft fabric make the Distance an excellent choice for hiking, climbing, layering, and even casual wear.


We used this shirt on our regular bike commute and even during an ascent of the Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park. The omission of vulnerable mesh fabrics added a level of durability that we didn't expect. Other shirts tested this year were so lightweight their versatility scores took a hit.

The Brooks Distance was an excellent running shirt; it's also capable of getting you to the farmers' market without being entirely drenched in sweat.
The Brooks Distance was an excellent running shirt; it's also capable of getting you to the farmers' market without being entirely drenched in sweat.

Even just hanging out in this shirt is a pleasure. The casual design and soft fabric make picnics and biking to the shops fun as you won't look too sporty. Many of the shirts tested didn't make for good casual wear as they have an obvious activewear look.

The Brooks Distance was ultra comfortable while out on the trails but equally comfortable while cruising the shops.
The Brooks Distance was ultra comfortable while out on the trails but equally comfortable while cruising the shops.

Features


To put it lightly, the Distance is lacking in features. The left shoulder holds the only reflective marking, and the only noticeable standout feature is the small sweatband on the back of the neck. While it was one of the lower scorers in the features metric, that might not be a negative if you intend to use this shirt for several uses. The real feature of this shirt is its clean form, with nothing to upset your skin when layers are added on top.


While the Distance lacks in features, it does have the basics, and the overall performance of this shirt far outweighs this metric. Yes, we wish there was a bit more reflective badging for safety, but it isn't a dealbreaker.

The Brooks Distance was a great crag companion. It's comfortable with a backpack on top  dries quickly  and offers unrestricted movement while climbing.
The Brooks Distance was a great crag companion. It's comfortable with a backpack on top, dries quickly, and offers unrestricted movement while climbing.

Value


With the significant comfort updates and affordable price, the Distance is good value. The bottom line is that we would have no hesitation in recommending this shirt to a friend at the retail price. If you're looking for a quick-drying and comfortable running layer that can be used for any outdoor pursuits, give the Distance a long hard look.

Conclusion


The Brooks Distance is an affordable, quick-drying, and fairly versatile running shirt. The recent boost in comfort has helped this shirt become one of our tester's personal favorites for running and climbing. Our previous issues with abrasive stitching and ill-designed panel layout have been resolved. The now soft stitching combined with the ultra-comfortable fabric makes this a great shirt by any standards.


Brian Martin